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Everything you need to know about driving in Denmark

copenhagen houses

As it turns out, driving in Denmark is no hassle. And renting a car in Denmark is easy. As an American, your driver’s license is valid and there is no need for extra validation or extensive tests – you’re perfectly okay to drive! This idyllic, Nordic country has an amazing infrastructure, perfect for driving. Visit Denmark, the home of quality pastries, scenic countrysides and fairytale castles.

Denmark is a flat country; meaning that driving in Denmark is probably one of the easiest experiences you could have. The small country is the home of 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has a lot more than beer and viking history to offer. 

I visited Copenhagen once, but I barely got to see everything. While I enjoyed the vibrancy and life of the city, there is so much more to Denmark than that. In this post, I will break down some of the top sights in Denmark that you can see in 5 days or less.

renting a car in Denmark

The Scenic sights of Denmark

Driving to and from different cities in Denmark means taking the highway though there are loads of alternative routes you can take that will give you the opportunity to stop for a little bit of sightseeing or a quick coffee break. There are loads of small harbors, fishing villages, castles or organic farms that you can drive to and spend a few hours. These are some of the top sights in Denmark, specific to their areas so it’s an easier drive.

Fairytale Funen

If you want to truly take in some breathtaking scenery, Funen was the home of beloved Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen and when you visit Funen, it will become very obvious why this island was the source of his inspiration. The fact is that Funen actually holds more than a hundred castles and manor estates that all are preserved perfectly! Most of them are even open to the public for a small fee and if you want more of that dreamy life, there are even castles where you can stay the night or have a meal in true fairytale style! If you’re interested in making this drive, a full trip around Funen could take you about 3-4 days and the full drive would be around 150 miles. This particular island is the best example of driving in Denmark; scenic, effortless and serene.

Natural North Jutland

If you’re looking for a more adventurous sight, perhaps with room to explore more, North Jutland has the most gorgeous natural phenomena and along the west coast, you’ll find the most gorgeous beaches of Scandinavia. From the magical Troll forest to the desert-like sand dunes of Rubjerg Knude and Raabjerg Mile, the north of Jutland is for the kind of people who enjoy trekking, nature and calm surroundings. For the best experience of North Jutland, consider spending 4-5 days, starting your trip in Aalborg and exploring the entire area, going from West to East, the highlight being Skagen, the Northern tip of Denmark, where the two seas meet.dunes

East Zealand

Driving in Copenhagen can be a bit tiresome with all its narrow roads and strict rules, so if you need a break from the capital, you could take 2-3 days to make the drive around East Zealand. For the most relaxing trip, start by visiting Dragør and its gorgeous harbor – get some fried, battered fish or have an ice cream while walking around this charming town. From Dragør, it’s a 40-minute drive to Roskilde, home of Roskilde Cathedral – one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites – and the last resting place of nearly 40 Danish kings and queens. From Roskilde, you’re only one hour away from Stevns Klint, another UNESCO site, and if you continue from Stevns, you can drive all the way down to Moens Klint and have a frisky walk along the coast.

The concept of “hygge”

You may have heard the term hygge – you might even know the meaning! The concept is rather intriguing, because it’s not just a feeling, it’s also a verb – as in something you do. Experiencing this atmosphere is essential when visiting Denmark. You don’t even have to be traveling with anyone to enjoy the concept. You can “hygge” with strangers in Absalon in Copenhagen: an old, converted church that now is a “people’s house” that offers social dining, bingo, drawing and pottery classes and so much more! There are even themed quiz nights and dancing lessons on offer, the most important thing being that the prices are incredibly low as everyone should have the opportunity to join.

Another way of experiencing “hygge” could be to visit one of the thousands of coffee shops around Denmark – especially the kind with books, art or mouthwatering cakes! Here are some places to visit in Denmark to satisfy your “hygge” needs.

Danes love their coffee

Like I mentioned in my 7 Fun Facts about Copenhagen post, Danes are the 7th highest coffee consumers in the world. This means you’ll find so many wonderful coffee shops and artisanal bakeries where you can get a quality cup of joe. Here are some suggestions for different cities:

Andersen & Maillard in Copenhagen

This award-winning bakery has that cool and casual vibe that Copenhageners are known for. There’s no formal seating – you order at the till and pick up your coffee and perhaps one of their fluffy croissants as well, and then you can sit in the window and enjoy the view of Nørrebrogade and its many occupants. Andersen & Maillard offer a large selection of pastries and Danish breakfast items at very reasonable prices. If you’re driving, make sure to consider your parking options as the café is located on a heavily trafficked street.

Café Unika in Odense

This café has a sweet origin story and makes a good spot for that perfect Instagram shot. The café was founded in 2019 by three sisters who traveled the world and found inspiration in Mexico, which they have then fused with Nordic culture in their café. Enjoy an Acai bowl or a breakfast plate with freshly squeezed juice or a nice cup of joe and snap some photos of their colorful decor!

Jumbo Bakery & Eatery in Aarhus

For a more rustic experience and a nice view, Jumbo Bakery & Eatery in Aarhus offers anything you can think of made with sourdough and well-roasted coffee to go with it. You can sit outside and watch as the trains go by at one of their locations or grab a coffee to go and explore the many quirky streets of Aarhus.

Driving in Denmark: Practical information

If you’re interested in driving in Denmark, here are a few tips you can take with you. Don’t be afraid to ask Danes for help either – Danes are very sufficient in English and helpful, should you need it. You won’t regret renting a car in Denmark – on the contrary. You will greatly appreciate the flexibility it’ll give you, and it will enable you to visit some of Denmark’s most scenic places.

renting a car in Denmark

Renting a car in Denmark

There are loads of options for renting a car in Denmark. I recommend renting a car with Danish Car Rental as they offer a wide range of car brands and models, as well as easy pick-up and drop-off in five major cities. That means it will be way easier for you to not waste any miles or time on having to return the rental car back somewhere. Depending on which city you start your trip in, getting the most of your rental car is fairly easy.

If you for instance start your trip in Copenhagen, you can stick to Zealand and drive around the entire island without having to worry much about the miles. In Zealand, you’ll find attractions such as the art museum Lousiana in Humlebaek, Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in Helsingoere or the rare example of an expressionist church: Grundtvig’s Church in Bispebjerg.

Another option, if you’re flying into Billund Airport, is to pick up your car in Billund and drive around the peaceful countryside of Jutland and visit the larger cities such as Aarhus, Aalborg and Vejle. Don’t forget to visit Legoland if you’re in Billund – it’s perfect for a full day of fun activities!

Accommodation in Denmark

When visiting Denmark, finding a place to stay is not difficult. Larger cities like Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense have large hotels chains like WakeUp, Radisson and Best Western, otherwise, there’s a large variety of inns, hostels and Airbnbs to choose from. I strongly recommend finding your accommodation in good time as prices can range between 35$ and 300$, depending on the quality of the place. If you’re more than three people, Airbnb might be the cheapest and best option. If you’re renting a car in Denmark, remember to consider your parking options at the place you choose to stay.renting a car in Denmark

Actually driving in Denmark

A very important thing to note, especially when driving in Denmark, is to be careful and aware of how cyclists move around. Copenhagen actually recently voted the best bike-friendly city in the world and it can really be felt when moving around the city: cycling bridges and car-free Sundays in specific areas makes it very important for you to know that driving in this particular city is something you’ll need to do cautiously. Remember to be aware of the many walking streets in the inner city – once you’ve driven through the narrow cobblestone streets, it can be quite the hassle to get out again!driving in Denmark

Weather forecast

Don’t be fooled by the changing weather in Denmark. Always be prepared for rain! Denmark is rather grey with mild summers and cold winters, though don’t let it scare you away from visiting this Scandinavian gem. Just remember an umbrella or a raincoat and you’ll be just fine. It’s also important to note that most restaurants and cafés are prepared for the weather as many of them offer outside dining with marquises and heating lamps, so don’t fret if you’re planning to enjoy a lunch al-fresco!

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7 Fun Facts About Copenhagen

Sunset

Last year I used Skyscanner’s regional search function to find a cheap flight to the U.S. You simply type in the region that you want to fly out of (or into) and hit the search button, and it shows you the cheapest options. In my case, that was ‘Europe’. And there it was, a flight from Copenhagen to L.A. for $249. Perfect! copenhagen fun factsNot only did I score a fantastic flight deal, but I was also excited that I’d be able to check out a country I’d been wanting to visit for a while – ever since I’d learned some fun facts about Copenhagen and Denmark that I thought were awesome. For example that Danes were rated the happiest people on the planet (two years in a row, by the way!), and since I’d learned about ‘hygge’, which I think is pretty similar to the German word ‘Gemuetlichkeit’, coziness, but a little bit better. It translates to ‘cozy feeling of togetherness’. No wonder that Danes are the happiest people on earth, when they have this cozy feeling of togetherness all the time. I wanted to experience it for myself, and I was happy that I had an excuse to finally visit Copenhagen.

copenhagen denmarkAnd because I think Copenhagen makes for a perfect city break, I want to share seven fun facts about Copenhagen with you that I hope will intrigue you to visit Denmark’s capital:

copenhagen mermaid

1 Cycling is huge in Copenhagen

55% of Copenhageners commute to work by bicycle. 55%!! Isn’t that amazing? And that’s not only during the summer months – that’s year round, rain or shine! The Netherlands might be known as a cycle nation, but the Danish are just as active as the nearby Dutch. And it’s quite a sight to see the mad traffic in the bike lanes during commuting rush hour!

copenhagen bicycle

2 Copenhagen has a self-governing freetown

The autonomous ‘Freetown’ Christiana is home to about 1,000 residents and is a self-governing part of Copenhagen that sits just outside the city center. Christiana residents don’t pay taxes and run the ‘freetown’ according to their own laws, most famously the selling and using of marijuana. While visitors are welcome here, cameras and cars are not allowed inside.

copenhagen love locks

3 Copenhagen has the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world

Copenhagen is home to the longest pedestrian shopping street in the entire world, Stroget. You’ll find plenty of international brands here, but also smaller Danish chains, where you can pick up some unique souvenirs from Denmark. That’s some Copenhagen trivia I bet you didn’t know!

copenhagen denmark

4 Copenhagen is a Green Capital

That sure goes along with the aforementioned cycling – Copenhagen is incredibly green, as in eco-friendly. So much so that it was rewarded with the title of Green Capital Of The Year in 2014. The city actually aims to become the most cycle-friendly city in the world! And it doesn’t stop there: Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. Around 64% of the city’s hotel rooms are certified as eco-friendly, and ¾ of food served in public institutions is organic.

copenhagen spring flowers

5 You can’t pay with Euros in Copenhagen

Surprisingly enough, Denmark is part of the EU, but they don’t use the Euro. Isntead, you pay with Danish Krone. Speaking of money – if you’re planning a trip to Europe, here is my guide to traveling Europe on a budget.

copenhagen fun facts

6 Canals galore in Copenhagen

Another similarity to the Netherlands is that the city is ringed by canals. Nyhavn is the most famous one, but the area of Christianshavn has so many canals that it carries the nickname ‘Little Amsterdam’.

copenhagen canal

5 Copenhagen boasts Fifteen (!) Michelin Stars

For a city of its size – Copenhagen has a population of just over half a million – Denmark’s capital has a surprisingly high number of Michelin Stars – 15 altogether! The most famous Michelin Star restaurant is Noma, which serves exquisite new Nordic cuisine and has been awarded the title as the best restaurant in the world four times! If you’re a gourmand, make sure to reserve a table well before you get here. That’s a fun fact about Copenhagen you can share at your next dinner party.

copenhagen

6 Copenhagen has an amusement park right in the city

Tivoli is Denmark’s second oldest amusement park (the oldest one, Bakken, is about an hour north of Copenhagen) and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The rides here are all old-school – the oldest roller coaster is over 100 years old – making it the most endearing and charming amusement park you’ll ever visit.

copenhagen fun facts

7 Danes are coffee lovers

And last but not least, my favorite Copenhagen fun fact: On the list of countries with the highest coffee consumption, Denmark takes #7 with 5.3 kg per capita, which comes to about 1.5 cups per day. This explains the high number of excellent coffee shops in Copenhagen – make sure to stop at one and have a cup of outstanding coffee – like most of Scandinavia, Denmark’s baristas take pride in preparing exclusively high-quality cups of Joe. And if you are a coffee lover too, Erin shares 10 amazing coffee shops in Copenhagen here.copenhagen fun facts

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Polaroid of the week: Colorful Copenhagen

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polaroid denmark copenhagenOther people might have considered it hugely inconvenient to travel to another country to catch a flight, but when I found a flight deal leaving from Copenhagen that was $200 cheaper than all the other flights from Europe to LA, my first thought was ‘Perfect! Now I’ve finally got an excuse to visit Copenhagen.’ And when I saw that it was only €20 to get there from Berlin, the decision was made: I’d spend a day in Copenhagen en route to the U.S. (I love how cheap it has become to travel around Europe with budget airlines, buses and trains competing for customers).

I didn’t have much on my ‘must see’ list, except for the obligatory photo stop by the Little Mermaid, the brightly painted Nordic houses along the canals and Christiana, the famous autonomous district of the city that is known for its alternative inhabitants and subculture (since it is not allowed for visitors to take photos inside Christiana, I recommend this picture-heavy Buzzfeed article to find out what Christiania is all about).

And so I just wandered the city, turned into streets that seemed interesting, stopped for coffee in trendy looking coffee shops, sat by the water and observed life in the Danish capital. One thing I loved was the fact that there seemed to be more bikes than cars – just like in Stockholm, people love to cycle. Spring had just sprung, and while it was still chilly, people were soaking up the sun rays in outdoor cafes (another similarity to Stockholm: the many coffee shops). I couldn’t have chosen a better city to explore for a day – Copenhagen, I have a feeling this wasn’t the last time we’ve met.

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